Tag Archives: Books

Affirmation of faith…in myself…

Standard

Wow, it’s a long time since I posted anything! My excuse is the same as last time. Work, work and more work. Plus, this time, a fair amount of illness and injury too. I’ve been coughing, sneezing and limping just lately. And nearly falling down the stairs too. But I am currently–apart from a strained ligament necessitating a bandaged foot–in pretty good health! Good job, since I’m at work so much!

All of this work was making forget that I’m a writer. I know, that’s a steady theme of this blog, reminding myself I’m a writer. But it’s a constant in my life. People ask what I do and I only usually remember to add that I’m a writer as they’re walking away. My other job is wonderful and fascinating, but I would like to remember I’m a writer from time to time.

Lots of good things have happened lately. I have confidence in my ability to do my job well, and to have fun doing it. I’ve realised just how many friends I really do have to invite to my 30th birthday party. I’ve found I can let go of things hoped for in the past and replace them with new hopes and dreams. That people sometimes really do want to hug me. I’ve taken to wearing clothes I want to wear, not ones to hide behind. I’m being myself in conversations–more of a struggle in the past than you might suspect. I’m branching out in so many ways…emerging from the mournful night into the joyful day. It’s exciting.

But there’s always that undercurrent of doubt in myself. Of not quite believing compliments. Of over-analysing conversations after I’ve had them to see if I said anything stupid. Of not wanting to expose my real self to people. There’s a whole host of reasons and I’m working on making those things melt away.

A lot of those doubts manifest themselves when I think about my writing. Am I really a writer? A real one? With books people want to read? This past week has done a lot to answer those questions. On Saturday 17th March I went to States of Independence, an event for indie publishers held at De Montfort University in Leicester. The corridors and rooms were full of stalls covered in books and pamphlets from all kinds of publishers and writers. I had the privilege of spending time with Bold Strokes Books editor Victoria Oldham and authors Kev Troughton and Andrea Bramhall, behind a table covered in a wide and wonderful selection of BSB books. In the afternoon, we did a 40 minute session on LGBTQ publishing, with readings and a Q&A session. It was wonderful. I had no fear sitting at the front of that room, nor standing up to read my excerpt from Ghosts of Winter. I answered questions happily. And I felt the interest of the people in the room. The acceptance of me as a writer, on my third published novel. A voice of experience, no less. And as a gay woman too. I’ve always struggled to talk about my sexuality in front of people. I shy away from labels and stereotypes. But I found I didn’t mind. And people wanted my advice. They wanted to buy my book. It was astonishing. But it was also amazing. I have rarely felt as comfortable in my skin as I did for those few hours. I have rarely felt so distinctly that I was in the right place, at the right time, doing what I should be. I spent the rest of the day wildly happy and also immensely grateful for the opportunity to feel strong and positive in a way I really haven’t done before.

Bold Strokes Books book at States of Independence

With Andrea and Kev at States of Independence

Then, today, to add to the excitement, the Lambda Literary Awards finalists were announced. And Ghosts of Winter is on the shortlist! Right there in the “Lesbian Romance” category. I’m still stunned, in the best way possible. It’s such an honour. I always thought such lists were for other people’s books. And certainly, I’d been feeling very distant from Ghosts of Winter lately. But to be named there with some other wonderful authors (including the most fabulous showing for Bold Strokes) is amazing beyond words. To know that my book has been read and appreciated…it’s so wonderful and moving to me. I am deeply grateful. Of course I love Ros and Anna, the protagonists of Ghosts all over again. But more than anything, I realise that I wrote a good book. I am a writer. And a good one! I’m incredibly excited.

On Saturday I’m going on a retreat day at an Anglican convent. I signed up because for me it’s vital to explore my faith, whatever shape and form that takes, and to ponder it a while. I’ve only been going to church for a year and I know it will be a journey that lasts the rest of my life. I’ve been exploring and pondering myself for longer and really working on it for a couple of years now. It will also be a constant journey, but I’ve reached a very important waymarker. I think that finally, I know who I am, what I dream of, what I hope for and what I’m good at. What I should be proud of. I have a firm faith in myself.

And that makes moving forward an adventure rather than an ordeal.

Next on the list? The Locket and the Flintlock will be released in May! 😀

 

 

Advertisements

Surprising myself…

Standard

I’ve not posted for a while. I guess life has rather got in the way of reflections on life…I’ve also barely written a thing, depsite two  nagging streams of creative inspiration which I am convinced will lead to full novels at some point. I’ve just not had the chance.

But I have got a new job. A job I don’t mind telling everyone about, because it seems to compliment my writing, my academic interests…and is generally more reflective of who I am than any of my other recent employment. I’m now an Interpreter at the Galleries of Justice musuem (in the Shire Hall and County Gaol of Nottingham, the place I fictionalised as a setting for my first novel Truths).

The Galleries of Justice

I love my job. It’s very random. Just yesterday I sat down facing a severed head…walked past a sword propped in a doorway on the way to the staffroom…had a conversation with a witch who then went on to kill the Sheriff of Nottingham in a Victorian courtroom…dodged through the shadowy cells so as not to interupt the ghost hunters…oh and spent the day dressed as a stern Victorian. In the coming week I’ll be a reform school teacher and a drunken Georgian prisoner. I’ll also work, as myself, with groups of school children, helping them understand their experience of visiting such a historic building…

And I am constantly surprising myself. I first had a taste of the job when I was 18. At that time I was terrified of public speaking, but my desire to share my knowledge of history won out and I found I could talk to huge groups about what went on the gaol exercise yard. But I’m still not comfortable being the centre of attention, or with the sound of my own voice. So before every tour group reaches me, I have a moment of wondering “what on earth am I doing? This isn’t me! Why would anyone listen to what I have to say? I can’t even act!”

But then, anywhere from one to thirty pairs of eyes are on me and I open my mouth and…I surprise myself. I am stern. I am loud. I am authoratative. I share my knowledge. I crack jokes and get laughter in response. I gesture emphatically. I let myself become a character and don’t feel remotely reserved about it. And I am shocked every time. I wonder where Rebecca’s gone.

It’s an amazing learning experience. That surprise is very similar to how I feel when I remember I’m a writer. The revelation is “wow, I really can do this…and people are actually liking what I do…”

I hope to never lose that sense of wonder. Because I think it’s crucial to not taking life and it’s opportunities for granted. I think it’s essential to fulfilling the potential we’re all born with, to knowing just how much we can do. Just now and again you have to surprise yourself. And in order to do that, you have to push…you have to take risks…you have to try to do the things you don’t think you can. Because when you discover you can, it’s the most amazing feeling. You see the true miracle of how multi-faceted we all are, the skills and traits we all keep hidden because we’re not confident in them…and seeing that, you realise how much fun life can be if you stop being scared of it.

I’m not saying give everything a go. There are things you don’t want to try in life. I have no interest at all in adrenaline rushes and will never be a thrill seeker in that sense. But there are always those nagging thing. The things you want to try…the things you see others do and suspect you could do just as well…the things you’ve always wanted to do. If the opportunity arises…go for it. You have to. We’re here to live our lifes and keeping the things you want to do buried under a lack of confidence stops you living life to full…

So. Go for it. Let your light shine into the world. Tap into your creative side and trust your instincts. Surprise yourself by finding just what you can do. It’s the way I’m trying to live…one day at a time, learning about myself, one surprise at a time…I’m getting there…

Oh and my third novel now has a beautiful front cover! The Locket and the Flintlock will be released in May 2012 by Bold Strokes Books. That’s a thrill that never goes away…and the wonderful surprise of seeing my name on a book cover never really diminishes…

Please check out the Galleries of Justice on facebook and also add our very own Villainous Sheriff, to see photos and find out about special events!

No more limits…

Standard

Today I spent four hours in Waterstone’s in Nottingham sitting behind–and occasionally meandering around–a table piled with copies of both of my published books, Truths and Ghosts of Winter. My first solo book signing. Or my first solo sitting-on-my-own-in-a-bookstore-hoping-I-at-least-sell-one-copy.

Truths

I set my target low. One copy. And I beat that target, several times over. No, I didn’t sell lots of books, and many of those I did were to people I already know. But I certainly sold more than would have ever been picked up from the shelves of Waterstone’s on an average Saturday. I also got to hang out with some great people, who came to keep me company, who I most likely wouldn’t know if I wasn’t a writer, including my fellow Bold Strokes author Lisa Girolami. And I got to sit and look at my books. MY books. All published and shiny in their beautiful covers, with my name on the front.

To begin with, it was intimidating. To be all on my own, with my books, in a store full of wonderful books of all kinds, and lots of literature-hungry customers. I couldn’t quite get past the idea that I was a fraud and that anyone who bought my books would be disappointed and wish they’d bought one of the thousands of other books in the store. I’ve always been in awe of Waterstone’s, of the brilliant volumes on the shelves and their myriad of compelling covers. So it was hard to make myself “part” of it. I felt like an intruder.

Ghosts of Winter

But then something happened. I wandered around and picked up some of those books. I revisited favourites, let titles catch my eye, examined the covers. I read the blurbs. So many intriguing stories. And my overall impression was one of a world without limits. Fiction really can go wherever it wants to. Within five minutes I’d found a book about the second coming of Christ in modern day New York, a depiction of a medieval queen, a Regency romance, and a book of vampire erotica. And that was such a small sample of what surrounded me.

Of course, I’m hardly saying anything new. Part of the point of fiction is that it is unlimited. The writer sets the rules of their own world and everything takes second place to the story. Those rules bend however a writer wants them to. However, writers can be limited. I was. My first novel, provisionally titled Butterfly will never be published. It’s not badly written and I very much like some of my characters.  But I wrote it with limits. I considered that my friends and family would read it. I considered that I didn’t really understand people that well and thus in dealing with the psychological mind-set of my characters, and didn’t want to present unrealistic thought patterns or motivations. I indulged in characterisation and description, but I never let my mind soar free. The result is something rather mundane and constrained.

The limits have relaxed a little. Becoming aware of my sexuality and finally grasping hold of my individuality led to Truths, written very quickly, in a time when I no longer worried what my relatives would think. Ghosts of Winter is unusual in some ways, but I was still frightened what people would think, so I made sure to stay “safe” with my second novel. There are really no controversial characters or ideas, nothing complicated to understand. Emotionally, it was a challenge to write, but it also fit nicely into the limits of what I thought I could achieve. There is nothing outspoken. Maybe nothing outstanding. That’s not a derogatory comment, but an acknowledgement of the fact that my novels are unlikely to provoke much comment or thought. I even worried a lot about the idea of including a short romance between gay men in a novel with a lesbian target market.

If I’m honest, I was scared to go further. Talk about religion, for better or worse? Include a character who does not have their wicked side in check, but is still appealing? Challenge expectations–of both the heterosexist world and the lesbian community? Many brilliant novels do none of these things. But the reason mine don’t, I realise, is that I didn’t feel capable. Who am I to delve into the mind of a villain? Who am I to present a confident, experienced, witty protagonist? Who am I to use psychological, philsophical or theological ideas as part of my plot?

Today I realised that I can do all of those things, and more, because I’m a writer. I DO have a talent for it. I can create worlds with my words. And in those worlds, I make the rules. I am the powerful one. The only limits are the ones I choose to impose. Any bookstore is a repository of worlds created by other writers. I’m as good as them. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. But I’m a writer just like any other. When I pick up one of their books and admire their bravery, at tackling a difficult or in-depth topic as part of their plot, or for taking on a twisty, complicated structure, I don’t need to be intimidated. I need to remember I’m a writer too, and I have no more limits than any of them. I can be intelligent, witty, wicked and fun…thoughtful, controversial, romantic, far-reaching. I can soar on the wings of imagination.

So, on with the writing. But I’m going to indulge that teenage rebellion I never allowed myself before. I’m going to open all the doors of my mind and see what’s lurking. I’m going to embrace my curiosity and the paths my intellect leads me down. I’ll even look in the dark places, the questioning places, and the fun places.

And I will trust my readers to come with me into that world. I’ll seduce and charm them with words until my rules are the ones that form the boundaries.

I finally believe that I can do it. I was perfectly legitimately placed in that bookstore today. Writing is the gift I was given and I am a writer.  That means I’m unlimited.

And, maybe, life will imitate art. 😀

By the way, I’m very much looking forward to the Bold Strokes Books 2nd Annual Author Event on 23rd and 24th of THIS MONTH!

Clarity

Standard

The name Pandora translates as “all giving”. In Greek mythology she was the first woman. The one with the box. When she opened it, all the evil escaped and swirled around, spreading out into all the world. All that was left in Pandora’s box, was hope. My last blog post, it strikes me, was called “Confusion and Hope”. Interesting.

I’ve felt a lot like Pandora. Without wishing to sound at all martyr-like, I’ve given a lot of myself, tried very hard to please…been as worried about disappointing people as Pandora was of disappointing Zeus when she disobeyed him and opened the box. And I’ve blamed myself for opening that box, letting lots of bad things swirl around me and confuse me, letting them hurt other people.

"Pandora" by Rossetti

But, in the last days, that murk is clearing. I can see what’s left in the box. It’s hope. It’s bright and it’s strong. It’s a butterfly, with glowing wings, waiting to fly into the blue skies.

I always knew it was there. Hope never vanished. Only now, it seems tangible. It seems strong. I can see it clearly. It’s more than hope. It’s a belief in my future.

Suddenly, I find I have clarity. It’s an interesting experience. To see myself for what I am, and to realise I have to define myself. Not in opposition to anything or in relation to anyone. Just as me. Just for me.

Who am I? Now there’s a question. I’ve started to tell people I’m a writer again. Just yesterday someone told me that my novel, Ghosts of Winter touched their heart very deeply. Those were my words, my characters. I’m proud to be a writer. I feel part of my writing ambition remains unfulfilled. In my next novel, I will do something about that. When I work out how to write it…

 

I’m gay. I struggle a little more telling people that than I do telling them I’m a writer. I’m still trying to work out why. The word “lesbian” makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know why that is either. Sometimes women in general make me uncomfortable, especially en masse. It’s strange. But it’s part of me.

 

 

I’m exploring my spirituality. I’m doing so within the “family” of a Church of England church. Such established, orthodox, paternalist, heterosexist religion is in direct contradiction to much of what I believe in. And yet, I’m asking questions. Why is it okay for someone to interrogate their spiritual beliefs and come to a faith in Mother Earth or Budda without condemnation? Some religions seem to be trendy. Why am I frightened of the Christian church? Surely all it is–like every religion and belief system–is another way of exploring the idea that there is something more than our fleeting existence. I’ve met with more acceptance in that church than I have within my own family. It was easier to come out to the vicar than it was my own mother. I’m not sure what I believe. But I find I can explore it now…without fear and with confidence in my conclusions…

Window at St. Margaret's Church, Aspley, Nottingham

I finally feel like an adult. Everyone I know has assumed their proper age in my mind, and no longer do I feel inferior to, and more naive than, everyone I meet. I have something worthwhile to contribute. I sometimes know more than other people…

And I have dreams again. I know they’re dreams and, as such, might not come true. But they are exciting, something to aim for. They are part of how I will relate to the world in the coming months. Having the clarity of mind to know my dreams is more wonderful than I could ever expect it to be.

In clarity, you see, there is no certainty. My dreams may deviate, or never come true at all. My mind is full of questions, about myself and the world. But that’s the point of clarity. When the view is clear, you can see all the way to the horizon. You can see all that lies before you and look at it carefully, in all of its vivid colours. You see the beauty and the mystery. Sometimes you see the problems too. But the point is, you see them clearly. And that means you can meet them head on.

My favourite quotation: “If you have built castles in the sky, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”  (Henry David Thoreau)

I can see my castle now. I can see the foundations I’ve been building under it for the last year. They’re strong. Now I can start to fill the rooms, paint the walls…and look out from the tower and see the view. The skies are clear.

 

I’m about to start work on my next novel, though it’s a secret for now. I’m not writing a proposal, that doesn’t work for me. I’m taking a risk. How does Victorian Gothic sound? Ghosts of Winter is doing well. And next month is the BSB event at Waterstones. All good stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

Historical musings…

Standard
I’ve been embroiled in the commercial side of my trade this last week or so…trying everything I can think of to get people interested in the Bold Strokes Books event in the UK in July. If you’re thinking of coming to event, you can now follow us on Twitter and add us on facebook. I’ve sent more e-mails than I’ve kept track of this week, with flyers attached. I really really want this to be a bigger event than last year. Not to raise my own profile, or to sell books…those things are nice, but not of primary importance. What I want is for aspiring writers to be inspired to keep writing…for queer readers to know there are more books out there written for them than they think…to bring a community together with a shared love of books and writing…

Do I sound idealistic? Good. It’s better than cynical. 😀

Oh I’ve been editing too. My new historical novel. But it’s got to the point that I’m just reading and making no changes…so time for a break from that too, methinks…

Anyway, I decided it’s time to think about something else. So a blog post called to me…I asked my facebook friends for questions they would like me to answer in a blog a few days ago. My fellow history lover Melissa McGuire asked me this: “What historical character would you most like to meet? What time period would you most like to explore in a novel?” Thanks Melissa! 😀 I’ll try to answer now. Although this could be an endless essay on one of my favourite topics if I let it run away with me!

What historical character would I most like to meet? It’s a hard one. To begin with, does it have to be someone well known? Historical figures usually are. Kings and Queens, heroes who made their name with some feat of daring or great invention, some clever battle plan or inspired work of literature…But if you’ve read my books, Truths or Ghosts of Winter you’ll know that I’m fascinated by the ordinary people and the untold stories…I’d love to have a chat with someone who watched the execution of Anne Boleyn in the crowd…with a factory worker during the industrial revolution… with a soldier on the field at Waterloo…with a maid in a Victorian household…

Truth is, I love history so much that virtually any historical figure, famous or not, would hold my interest. But, for the sake of an answer to this question, I can think of a few of the more famous names. In the world of literature, tempted though I am to say Shakespeare, or Jane Austen, it’s actually Lord Byron I want to meet. Would he live up to his “mad, bad and dangerous to know” reputation, given to him by Lady Caroline Lamb? Would he be as handsome as he was thought in his day? Just what did go on with all those women, and those handsome boys? I want to meet the man who gave the adjective “Byronic” to the world. I remember standing in the church where he is buried (in Hucknall, near Nottingham) and wishing I could conjure him into life.

Lord Byron

Outside of literature…well…The Duke of Wellington, just to see if he’s as obnoxiously intelligent as he seems to have been…Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Mary Shelley and one of the earliest advocates for women’s rights…”Mad” King Ludwig of Bavaria, to see if he really was mad…

The list could go on and on. But I must just mention the one woman who has always intrigued me, from my earliest days of understanding history. Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth I

 

Strong, powerful, in many ways tragic, the woman who defined an age, a golden age for this country. I would be terrified of the woman. But I would love to meet her too.

Okay, that was more than one figure. I hope you’ll forgive me… 😀

Now for the second part of the question…what time period would I most like to explore in a novel? This is just as hard! My favourite historical period is, without a doubt, from the French Revolution in 1789 to the end of the Regency in 1820. I love everything about the history, culture and literature of this period. Romanticism, the Napoleonic Wars, Jane Austen, the industrial revolution and the growth of the cities, the rise of the Gothic, the Enlightment…everything about the time fascinates me. I connect with it in ways I don’t entirely understand. The historical part of Truths and the historical novel I’m working on now are both set in this time period.

However, I’m not limited to one period! When I first thought of writing historical novels, it was the Tudor period I wanted to explore. All the power and poltics, life on a knife edge, a time of great discovery, hugely significant kings and queens…And at the moment, I am planning a late-Victorian novel, with all the decadence, anxiety, aesthicism and Gothic sensibilities of the fin de siecle period.

And yet, if I had to choose one period of history to explore…I would say the 1920s. That few short years between the two world wars, when Britain was already changed beyond recognition by the tragedy of World War One, but optimistic, full of the spirit of modernity, a drive to avoid the mistakes of the generations before…It seems such an exciting time. But all so futile. One shiny, glistening decade before the Wall Street Crash and the Depression…before the devastation of World War Two which followed…To explore that, to capture the spirit of that time in words, is something that is very much one of my writing ambitions.

1920s

I hope that answered your question Melissa! 😉

Now, I am going back to my editing. Otherwise known as banging my head against a wall constructed out of my own words…

Oh and Ghosts of Winter is out NOW!!! 😀

Bold Strokes Books UK event 2011

Standard

Save the date!! Bold Strokes hits the UK again in July 2011. I am so very excited and proud that the event is taking place in Nottingham, and delighted that we have the support of Waterstones for the second year in a row. The authors who will be attending for sure are: Me (Rebecca S. Buck), Lesley Davis, Gill McKnight, Jane Fletcher, Justine Saracen, I. Beacham, Cari Hunter and VK Powell. Editors in attendence will be Stacia Seaman and Victoria Oldham. Check out www.boldstrokesbooks.com for more information on these writers, editors, and our wonderful publisher 😀

Please note that the event is actually two events–one on the Saturday afternoon and one on the Sunday morning. We’re also hoping for a fun, informal social event on the Saturday evening. More details to follow!

Here’s the latest flyer:

BSB in the UK!

Keep the date!!! Bold Strokes Books’ event 2011

Standard

I am very excited to share the first flyer for Bold Strokes Books’ second UK event. It’s a chance to meet lots of lovely Bold Strokes writers, editors, and other book fans. And takes place in my beloved Nottingham. I couldn’t be more proud!!
I can’t wait, and I hope to meet lots of you there!!

Bold Strokes hits the UK again!